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Pilates with a wrist injury

November 19, 2017

Some of you that have been to my classes may have noticed that I am carrying an injury at the moment. I had a accident in September which left me with what the doctors called 'significant' fractures to both my radius and ulna (the bones in the forearm that join at the wrist). I'm currently in physio and rather frustrated by the very slow healing process - which nearly 3 months later still leaves me unable to bend my wrist. Pretty disastrous territory for a Pilates teacher! Or at least that's what I thought...but then trying to see the positive I decide this could be a great opportunity for me to really practice what I preach...

 

I'm a very big believer that Pilates is for everyone, and quite often work with people who have conditions limiting their physical capability. These can range from chronic health conditions to temporary musculoskeletal injuries. So if I can make it work for others I decided I could absolutely try to make it work for myself. 

 

As Pilates teachers the first thing we do prior to a session is asses the safety and appropriateness of the exercises we include for the participants. In the same way that the level of difficulty can be altered to cater for experience, the setup position and execution of exercises can be altered to match physical capability. For example, most exercises take place lying on the back, front, side or from kneeling on all fours. There are also some more advanced exercises that assume a long arm plank or reverse plank position, or incorporate a push up. Figuring out what could work for me was almost like solving a puzzle...eradicating the moves that I can't do because I can't bend my wrist to hold my body weight, but finding a solution so that the same joints and muscle groups are worked, and the same benefits apply. 

 

In a lot of Pilates positions, weight can be taken through the elbows - so when looking at an exercise like the side bend that immediately ticked a box (and my obliques (the muscles running around the side of your waist) still feel the benefit!). The same is also true of the plank. Lowering to execute it from my elbows instead of my wrists ensures I'm getting the same full body strengthening workout.

 

Getting rotation through my my arms was and still is hard...even though that doesn't rely on bending the wrist. My ability to turn my palms form one direction to another has declined, but then that's really challenged me to push harder at correcting my technique (and work on it in physio). The other thing we use our hands and wrists for in Pilates is stability - especially to support us when lying on the side. As you've probably heard me say...we use the core during exercises to stop us from any unwanted movement that detracts from the purpose of the exercise or makes it unsafe...so I've learned to use my core more so I don't need my arm for stability. Something that I initially thought wouldn't be possible but through some perseverance now works well. So the fact I thought I couldn't work as hard with an injury has proven to be untrue!!

 

Finally, I must admit I never thought I would hear myself say I miss push ups...although I've been working with handles to hold on to rather than placing my hands on the floor...and making sure I use resistance bands to keep my triceps strong. 

 

Summarising my experience, my initial concern with my injury was that it would stop me from being able to do what I love and lose the level of body conditioning I'm used to. What I've found instead is that in fact I've had to work harder...and I certainly haven't missed out! Plus it's given me a greater understanding of some of the challenges my clients face - which I hope will only serve to strengthen my teaching the future. 

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